I was thinking this week, a Tuesday as it happens, that every weekday begins with a small tragedy, as I have to get out of bed when the alarm clock goes off. That has never been good for me. Maybe you wake up whistling a little sunrise song and giving a wink to the bluebirds flying around your head. I don’t. I hit the snooze alarm, then again, then again, and think “Oh Lord, I’ll buy breakfast at work, I don’t have to get up yet.”
That paragraph may make it sound like I hate my job, but it’s just the opposite. I like my job quite a bit. When I actually arrive at work, in fact, I sit down at my desk and feel fairly contented (for a person at work, I mean; let’s not get ridiculous about it). The problem is not being at work, the problem is getting up to go there.
And so—and I’m going somewhere with this, don’t rush me—when I wake up and finally accept the reality of being in this world, often the first thing I think of before I get out of bed is what I want to write that day. Sometimes I’ll think of a poem I’m working on, which I generally do during lunch hour, or else I’ll think about the chapter I’m writing in the novel, which I work on during the evening, and I’ll think “this is what I’ll do today”, and with that thought in mind, I push back the covers to get up.
Of course in the meantime I’ve got the job thing, and driving to work and coming home, making dinner, and so on, but the thing that gets me out of bed—literally—is what I want to write. When the writing is going well, I can get up more easily, even though many hours will go by before I can get to it.
Conversely, if for some reason I’m not writing, say if I’m just making notes or planning or even stuck, then I often feel lost. What am I supposed to do with that day? We all have to move through time, one of the quintessential human dilemmas, and how do we do it? For many people, with the invention of television, this problem has been suppressed and ignored. And of course the internet has been a godsend for helping us figure out how to get through time. Hours go by and you don’t even know it.
I don’t have a TV, however, and yes, I know. Please don’t leave more than one comment telling me what a freak I am. I write, that’s what I do, and read some. I come home looking forward to writing, wanting to move the story forward. When I write, it’s as if scenes appear in front of me, as if in a space of blank whiteness, for instance, suddenly a stretch of blue water appears, then boats are bobbing in the water, next to a hillside where white houses with red roofs also appear, rising up the hill, and in the houses people are eating manicotti and drinking red wine, laughing at someone trying to tell a joke. When I write, I move mentally into the world on the page, as it comes into existence in front of me.
With the novel I’m currently writing, I’ve reached a point of stopping to plan, so in order to keep at the pleasure of putting words down, I’ve started a short story. I don’t expect to publish it. It seems to me that not in a thousand years will the literary magazines publish what I write. I’m writing only for my own pleasure in this case. Here is the first paragraph:
“Everyone in the village of Littlepig Pass, during their dreams, rose up to laugh, to dance, to shout in terror as they fell off cliffs, and to dash naked down hallways. These were the dreams they would talk about in the morning over a sober cup of coffee, since dreams like these blew constantly at night through the village, arriving on a dreamwind flowing across the Milky Way. This leafy lonely village, out on the edge of the Milky Way, in the mountains of North Georgia, caught the tail of that cosmic dreamwind, so that these mountain people danced and ran naked.”
There is so much I want to write still. One completed novel needs revision, one partially written novel (laid aside) needs completion, the one I’m writing needs to be finished (it’s two thirds done as of last Friday), and I’ve begun to think about another book that I’d like to write, set in my home town, with magical elements. And those are only the big things. There is plenty of reason to get out of bed, but none of it involves an alarm clock.